Wales have begun their 2024 Six Nations campaign with back to back narrow defeats, following on from their unsuccessful trip to Twickenham on Saturday. Despite leading for the majority of the contest, a 70th minute George Ford penalty edged England into the lead, which they then saw out for the remainder of the hard-fought fixture.
Warren Gatland’s men ran-out an impressive first half performance for a 14-5 half-time lead, but took their foot of the gas for the second 40 minutes. The first of two first half scores came courtesy of a penalty try, following England flanker Ethan Roots’ illegal halting of a try-line bound rolling maul. Roots was sent to the sin bin, where he joined his teammate Ollie Chessum as England briefly battled on with 13 men.
Wales added their second try just before the break, with Tommy Reffell splitting through the England defensive line. The back row then offloaded the ball in contact to Tomos Williams, before the scrum half executed a neat two-on-one, to send flanker Alex Mann into the back-field to wrap up the score. Despite the jubilant Wales fans who celebrated all throughout the break, choruses of ‘swing low, sweet chariot’ echoed around Twickenham for the second half, as the hosts established a foothold for an eventual comeback.
Wales replacement wing Mason Grady gave away the decisive penalty, following his attempt to intercept Ford’s pass. The Cardiff man sent the ball to the deck, with the offence deemed to be a deliberate knock-on by the referee, who sent Grady to the sin-bin, which Ford happy to add the three points for the eventual win.
Here are the five biggest talking points from Warren Gatland and Dafydd Jenkins’ press conference, following Wales’ 16-14 defeat to England in round two of the Six Nations.
1. DISAPPOINTMENT TO LOSE TO ENGLAND & GATLAND’S MESSAGE TO WALES FANS
DAFYDD JENKINS: “Extremely disappointing. But yeah, really proud of the boys, they stuck in every time and give it their all. But international rugby now it’s all about winning. To fall short on those two losses hurts a lot. Yeah, we got to start turning those losses into wins.”
WARREN GATLAND: “It’s pretty disappointing. Really look, I’m proud of the performance and the effort of the players out there. You know, we’re just disappointed we didn’t come away with a win. It’s probably, for us it’s part of the journey that we’re on in terms of developing as a team. I said to the players in the changing room, ‘we have to be disappointed by that’. They put us in a position where we should have won that game.
“I think message to the Wales public is, have a bit of patience. So hopefully people from the outside can see what we’re trying to do as a squad.”
“I think the boys are desperate to want to get a win. Probably the challenge for us is, just how important winning is. A number of players are coming from regional teams that haven’t had a lot of success. So, they probably get used to not having a ‘W’ next to their name after performances. That’s why, for us, it’s important that you start doing that, and being positive about doing that.
“One of the great things about coming in, to play for Wales, having spoken to a number of players, is that when they come into this environment, they come in with confidence, believing that they’re good enough to win. So we just got to keep building on that. And hopefully, put one of these games to bed.”
2. GATLAND PRAISED TOMMY REFFELL’S IMPROVED ATTACKING GAME
WARREN GATLAND: Yeah, I think one of the things that we have tried to focus with him, we know how good he is defensively. But we wanted to get him been comfortable getting the ball in his hands a little bit more, and becoming an option and a bit of a running threat. We saw that last week and we saw that again today, so absolutely delighted for him because he’s started to get a nice balance in his game, and I think that gives him, and can take him to the next level. So, I thought he was absolutely outstanding today and he just keeps going for 80 minutes.